by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health
No one wants to be overweight, have diabetes or grow old prematurely. Well, a new study shows that thereâs a simple strategy that may help prevent all three that is actually quite fun and relaxing.
A massage might do the trick!
And Iâm not talking about an expensive, hour-long massage, eitherâthe latest research shows that an inexpensive massage lasting justÂ 10 minutesÂ can be beneficial.
MASSAGING YOUR MUSCLES TO FIGHT DISEASE
Researchers were interested in studying massage immediately after exercise for two reasons. For one thing, practically speaking, thatâs a common time for people to get a massage, since many people say that massage helps reduce muscle soreness from exercise. Another reason is that, biologically, itâs easier to measure differences in the effect of massage on cells after exercise, because exercise puts the body into a state of temporary stress.
Volunteers in the study included 11 healthy, active men in their 20s who provided a bit of muscle tissue from one thigh for a baseline biopsy. Then researchers had the volunteers do 70 minutes of fast-paced cycling on a stationary bike. The volunteers rested for 10 minutes and then had a 10-minute massage on one thigh only. Immediately after the massage, researchers took second muscle biopsies, but this time from both thighs in order to compare massaged tissue versus nonmassaged tissue. Two and a half hours after the second biopsies, the volunteers underwent a third set of biopsies on both thighs to capture any changes that might have occurred a bit later after their massages.
To learn about the findings, I called Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and head of neuromuscular and neurometabolic disease at McMaster University in Canada, who was a coauthor of the study published inÂ Science Translational Medicinethis past February.
STOP THE DAMAGE!
Dr. Tarnopolsky told me that the researchers found two very interesting differences in the muscles that had been massagedâ¦
- A gene pathway that causes muscle inflammation was âdialed downâ in these muscles both immediately after the massage and 2.5 hours after the massage. (Specific genes can be present in our tissues but not alwaysÂ active.) Dr. Tarnopolsky said that this is helpful knowledge because muscle inflammation is a contributor to delayed-onset muscle soreness, so it confirms biologically what weâve always believed through anecdotal observationâa post-exercise massage can help relieve muscle soreness.
- Conversely, another sort of gene was âturned onâ by the massageâthis is a gene that increases the activity ofÂ mitochondriaÂ in muscle cells. You probably know that mitochondria are considered the âpower packsâ of our muscles for their role in creating usable energy. Now, itâs true that better mitochondrial functioning has been shown by other studies to help decrease insulin resistance (a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes) and obesity and even to slow aging. When I asked Dr. Tarnopolsky about whether or not itâs a stretch to link post-exercise massage to these benefits, he said that itâs not unreasonableâthere is a potential connection, and future research will need to be done to confirm it.
TREAT YOURSELF TO MASSAGE
The massage type that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used was a standard combination of three techniques that are commonly used for post-exercise massageâeffleurageÂ (light stroking)â¦petrissageÂ (firm compression and release)â¦andÂ stripping(repeated longitudinal strokes). Itâs easy to find massage therapists in spas, salons, fitness centers and private practices who use these techniques. Or you could ask your spouse or a friend to try some of these moves on you (even if his or her technique isnât perfect) because thereâs a chance that it could provide the benefits, said Dr. Tarnopolskyâhe just canât say for sure, since that wasnât studied.
Dr. Tarnopolsky studied massage only after exercise, so thatâs when he would recommend getting one, but itâs possible that massaging any muscles at any time may have similar benefitsâmore research will need to be done to find out.
Remember, you donât have to break the bank on a prolonged 60-minute massageâa simple 10- or 20-minute rubdown (which usually cost $10 to $40) can do the trick.
Source:Â Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, department of kinesiology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.